Fifty Shades Darker: Chapter Thirteen
Last week, in the longest chapter of all fucking time, we left off with the thrillingly tantalising promise of Ana getting at the very least pistol-whipped by Christian’s ex-sub Leila, who’s broken into her apartment with a pistol. And now, the thrilling conclusion!
Ana wonders if Ethan, Kate’s brother, is alright, and tries to figure out how Leila got in- but just when this book looks like it might be taking a dramatic second-act turn into actually having a plot, EL takes some important time out to remind us that Ana is the prettiest girl in the room.
“She’s still wearing that grubby trench coat, and she looks desperately in need of a wash. Her hair is greasy and lank, plastered against her head, and her eyes are a dull brown, cloudy, and vaguely confused.”
Bear in mind that this is written in first-person present tense, so this is allegedly actually what’s going through Ana’s head when she first sees Leila. “Desperately in need of a wash”? God forbid we forget for one second how inferior, looks-wise, all women are to Ana fucking Steele, even in the presence of a promisingly threatening pistol-wielding maniac.
Ana engages Leila, and asks her if she’s there by herself-let’s remember at this point that Leila is meant to be mentally unwell, and take a look at what EL thinks mentally ill people talk like.
““She speaks,” she whispers, and her voice is soft and hoarse at the same time, an eerie sound.
“Yes, I speak,” I say gently as if to a child. “Are you here alone?” […]
Her face falls, so much so that I think she’s about to burst into tears—she looks so forlorn.
“Alone,” she whispers. “Alone.””
Leila continues to talk in this bizarre fucking fashion for the rest of the chapter. Does this not kind of read like EL James’ only encounters with significant mental illness were on American daytime soaps? I’m not saying that this kind of response to mental stress and illness is impossible, but it’s done with such shockingly bad sledgehammer nuance here that it just reads as cliched and offensive. I also refuse to believe that EL, the woman who brought us reguargiated abuse dressed up in a nice suit and called it romance, was ever intending to bring us a nuanced look at what severe mental illness can do to a person, but rather just shoved some of the offensively overused cliches pop culture has jammed down our throats regarding mentally ill people into one character and called it a day. And what’s the one other character with a mental illness in the series? Christian, who uses his PTSD and history of abuse to inflict constant abuse on Ana. Awesome. Great.
“As if to a child” is only the first of several references to Leila as a kid, by the way. You know mentally ill people can still be functioning adults, right? Like, we’re not all reduced to this state of obsessive zombieism? And if we are, THE PEOPLE AROUND US RECOMMEND WE GET HELP AS OPPOSED TO REFUSING TO HOLD US ACCOUNTABLE FOR OUR ACTIONS AND ALLOWING US TO ENDANGER OURSELVES AND OTHERS.Fucking hell.
Ana offers Leila tea (????) as Leila twists her head from side to side a bunch like a lizard catching the sun or something. Leila asks Ana what she has that Leila doesn’t, and while I’m fully expecting Ana to shoot back with “clean hair and a decent wardrobe, bitch”, she explains that she is too “inadequate” to fill the role of Christian’s sub, hence the differences in their relationships. The golden pen of EL James continues it’s masterful capturing of mental illness-
““In-ad-e-quate.” She tests the word, sounding it out, seeing how it feels on her tongue. “But Master is happy. I have seen him. He laughs and smiles. These reactions are rare . . .very rare for him.””
Maybe I was being unfair earlier. Maybe she’s also seen some campy serial killer dramas from daytime TV, as well, because this is what this reads as. I can’t wait for this scene in the movies, when the series officially tips over from awkwardly abusive romance into to stunningly uninspired thriller and whoever’s at the helm has to try their hardest to bring this unwieldy ship back into shore.
Leila talks some more about Christian, and how he likes all his women to look the same, and how he’s a “dark” man. I mean, yes, he is, but not for the reasons anyone in this series seems to think for. He’s dark because he abuses women- while we don’t know the specifics of his relationship with Leila, she ended up like this while he came out unscathed, which certainly raises some questions at the very least, especially when you factor in his treatment of Ana into the equation. But no, everyone seems to think his darkness comes from the fact he likes to spank women and touch them lightly with whips. If that makes him dark, then I’m that fucking material that straight-up absorbs light.
Ana tries to get the gun of Leila, and she implies that she plans to shoot Christian- damn, this chapter is turning out better than I expected. Christian bursts in, and Leila turns to him.
“My world teeters precariously in the hands of this poor, fucked-up woman. Will she shoot? Both of us? Christian?”
Instead, Christian transfers into “dominant mode”-
-and Leila drops the gun and falls to her knees. Christian tells Ana that Ethan is safe, and orders her back to his apartment with his bodyguard. She’s reluctant, but he yells at her a bit because what she really needs after this trauma is for the man who allegedly loves her to scold her for not doing as he says while he stays with the ex-lover who just tried to kill her. Ana leaves with Taylor (well, actually, Taylor carries her downstairs like the caring boyfriend Christian will never be. Stanning hard for Taylor for ever), and Ethan is waiting for her downstairs.
“Ethan whispers and pulls me close once more. “Has anyone called the cops?”
“No, it’s not like that.””
ISN’T it now. Any expanding on this or…? No? Great.Ana and Ethan go for a drink, and as they do so, they see Christian carrying Leila out to a cruiser where his shrink, Dr Flynn, is waiting. I mean, at least something is being done, but still- this feels distinctly under the radar. If Christian is so invested in Ana’s safety, why won’t he call the police, or at least medical professionals who aren’t directly related to him and therefore can’t offer a neutral view on the issue? Is it because he has something to hide? I mean, EL didn’t write it like that, but that’s what I’m choosing to believe. He has some part in this monumental fucking-up of Leila, and can’t afford to have anyone too significant figuring that out.
Ana returns to the Christian’s apartment, where of course he’s furious with her for going out drinking with a friend after she suffered a horrible trauma. He reveals that Leila is in a psychiatric hospital (fucking finally). And now, some time for the traditional relationship drama these two have after everything from buying a fucking dress to a mentally unstable ex attempting to murder one of them-
“I shake my head. “I’m no good for you.”
“What?” he breathes, his eyes widening in alarm. “Why do you think that? How can you possibly think that?”
“I can’t be everything you need.”
“You are everything I need.””
Jesus, just BREAK UP ALREADY. If you’re having to work this hard at the relationship when you’ve only been at it a month or so, you are unequivocally not suited to each other. And it would genuinely make for a much more interesting rest of the trilogy if Ana were to leave him and recover from his abusive machinations while moving on with, I don’t know, Taylor. Christian immediatley decides that she’s planning to leave him, so instead of dealing with it like a grown- ass adult, what does he do? Throw a fucking tantrum.
“No,” he breathes, his eyes wide with panic, and suddenly he drops to his knees in front of me, head bowed, long-fingered hands spread out on his thighs. He takes a deep breath and doesn’t move.”
Well, Ana imagines it’s actually him submitting to her, but we all know he’s just a three-year-old pouting on the ground in the shopping centre while the annoyed parent repeatedly mutters “You’ll get nothing, you’ll get nothing,” as they try to pull them back to their feet.
And with that, we leave off a (mercifully short) recap. See you next week!